The friendship recession | Richard Reeves

Friendships are an underappreciated human relationship, yet it is essential to have close friends for one’s mental and physical well-being. Some studies suggest that loneliness is as bad for health as smoking 15 cigarettes daily. It isn’t easy to measure friendships since it is challenging to determine the quality and quantity of friendships. Social scientists also struggle to get people to admit loneliness as it is stigmatized. There is a rise in the number of people who lack a certain number of close friends, and this phenomenon is referred to as a “friendship recession.” Friendship comes in all shapes and sizes and is formed in different ways and places. Friendship groups typically consist of 12-15 people, with most individuals having at least one close friend. Online friendships have become increasingly popular, allowing people to form relationships without ever meeting the person physically.

The decline in traditional institutions like religion and marriage means people need to have social relationships outside these institutions. However, there has been a decline in the number of people who report having close friends. This is likely due to geographical mobility, increased time spent on parenting, emphasis on work and careers, and the breakdown of relationships as couples separate.

There are downsides to being without friends, including lack of access to opportunities and mental and physical health effects. Being sad can hurt one’s physical and emotional health. Today, 15% of young men report not having a close friend, compared to just 3% in the 1990s. Friendship is idealized because it is a genuine and radical equality relationship, and a charity has no sense of dependency or exchange. While companies may be challenging to measure, paying attention to this underappreciated human relationship is significantly essential as society changes technologically and economically.

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